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Little Changes as Bars Legally Reopen Across Thailand

Midnight closure, crooked cops mean more of same for nightlife industry

Patong Phuket Baangla Road Bars Nightlife
Phuket's Bangla Road on June 1

With midnight closing times still in effect, not much really changed with this week’s full, legal reopening of Thailand’s nightlife industry.

Police were out in massive force along lower Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok Thursday night, with uniformed officers and soldiers followed by throngs of Thai media as authorities made a circus of enforcing closures at 12 a.m.

Most bars and clubs in Thailand have been open for weeks, if not months, through bribes to police and dodgy restaurant licenses. So June 1’s “reopening” was meaningless for all but the biggest nightclubs.

Ironically, bar owners had already paid corrupt Lumpini Police Station officials to stay open until 2 a.m. only to see them close bars at 1 a.m. on June 1 – the legal reopening date – and earlier on June 2.

In Phuket, tourists flocked to pubs, bars and karaoke shops, especially those on Bangla Road in Patong District, on June 1.

Bangla Road is a well-known nightlife walking street for tourists, especially foreign visitors, because it hosts go-go bars, beer bars, karaoke shops and other “service” parlors.

Reopening also was welcomed in Chiang Mai where operators of local entertainment venues and massage parlors met with health officials for a briefing on disease-control measures required to operate.

Chiang Mai is one of the 17 tourism-promotion “blue zones” where the government allowed entertainment venues to reopen Wednesday.

Chiang Mai Deputy Gov. Worawit Chaisawat said entertainment businesses could reopen if they met Thai Stop Covid 2 Plus and Covid-Free Setting criteria and received reopening approval from the provincial communicable diseases committee.

Their operators are required to stop the daily sales of alcoholic beverages at midnight, refrain from crowded activities and have their personnel fully vaccinated against Covid-19, conduct antigen tests weekly and assess their Covid-19 infection risks via the “Thai Save Thai” app. Besides, service providers must wear face masks.

The government requires customers to be fully vaccinated, but no one is enforcing the rule.